Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                       Copyright 1996 Vn-families

Issue #12. The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schultz, Vietnam 
Bulletin December 21, 1970.

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
Please direct all questions to [email protected]
Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 - Jan 17, 1996
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
           TAS720506 - March 27, 1996.
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schultz, VB701221 - 
           April 3, 1996
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010?? - 
           April 10, 1996.
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010?? -
           April 17, 1996.
                      THE LEGEND OF CHU VAN DICH 
                     Adapted by George F. Schultz

This story, which is obviously of Buddhist inspiration, is a lesson in 
honesty. A poor farmer dies before he can pay off his debts; he returns 
to life as a water buffalo and works hard in order to take care of his 
obligations. The creditor also conducts himself honestly in returning 
the canceled notes to the debtor's sons.

Many years ago, a peasant was driving a water buffalo before the plow in 
his master's rice field. "Van Dich! Van Dich!" he called exhortingly. 
"Move along; it is almost noon. A few more furrows and our work will be 

Two handsome young men, who were walking along the path that bordered 
the rice-field, happened to overhear the peasant's words. They stopped 
in their tracks and looked at each other with astonishment. To whom was 
the peasant speaking? There was no other person in the field with him. 
Was it possible that he had called the buffalo by a man's name? It was 
all very strange.

The last furrow was plowed.

"Van Dich," said the peasant to the buffalo then, "you did a good job. 
It is time to rest."

The peasant wiped the sweat beats from his brow and then unharnessed the 
buffalo. The great beast plodded to the edge of the field to graze. The 
peasant drank some tea from a bowl and munched a few mouthfuls of rice; 
then, to protect himself from the unbearable heat, he removed his 
conical hat of palm-straw and began to fan his face with it. Absorbed in 
his own thoughts, he failed to notice the approach of the two strangers.

"Dear friend," one of. them called to the peasant, "is your buffalo 
perchance named Van Dich?"

"Yes", replied the peasant, "that is his name. Does it seem odd to you?"

"Very odd," was the reply. "Why did you give him that name?" The farmer 
considered for a moment.

"Well," he said then, "you are not the first ones who have asked that 
question. There is an unusual story connected with this buffalo. You 
see, my master is a wealthy landowner. I have worked for him for a long 
time and always with this buffalo. I call him Van Dich because he was 
born with that name as you can plainly see from the two characters 
inscribed on his hack. He is the cleverest and most industrious buffalo 
I have ever seen."

The two young men, who were brothers, looked at each other 
significantly. They thanked the peasant for the information given them 
and then set off in the direction of the neighboring village.

"Younger brother," said the elder of the two, "how strange all this is. 
After an absence of many years, we are returning to our native village, 
which we left as children. I am ashamed to learn that a buffalo has been 
given our father's name. We must speak to the buffalo's owner about it."

On reaching the village, the two young men inquired about the location 
of the rich landowner's home. They went there then and knocked at the 
door. As they were well-dressed and did not look like beggars, they were 
admitted at once. Tea was served them and water-pipes brought forward. 
Finally, after a period of polite silence, the elder brother asked the 
master of the house, an old man with snow-white hair, to tell them about 
the buffalo called Van Dich.

The old man seemed surprised at their question but not unwilling to tell 
the story.

"I come from this village," he said. "I started as an ordinary farmer. 
Heaven was kind to me and my wealth increased from year to year. I 
acquired large holdings of land. I became richer and richer and many 
peasants came to work for me. My young neighbor, however, a farmer named 
Chu Van Dich, had no luck at all although he was an honest and righteous 
man. One misfortune after another happened to him, and in the end he had 
no more than a few crumbs of rice for his wife and two sons. He came to 
me to borrow some money. I gave him what he needed since I was certain 
that the money would bear good interest. For some time his luck seemed 
to change; but then his wife fell ill and his two buffaloes died in the 
same night. A farmer cannot live without a buffalo. I lent him some more 
money, with which he purchased a new buffalo. But after he had brought 
in a good harvest and seemed to have saved himself., a fire destroyed 
his house and all his grain. Chu Van Dich died then from sheer despair. 
His wife and children left the village and it appeared that I had lost a 
considerable sum of money."

The two brothers hardly dared breathe. They had just heard the story of 
their father's ruin.

"Several years ago," continued the landowner, "Chu Van Dich appeared to 
me in a dream. He was in a pitiable condition. He said that as he had 
not been able to pay his debts to me during his earthly existence, his 
soul had been unable to find peace in the Kingdom of the Bead. He said 
further that he would come to work for me in order to pay off his debt."

The old man stopped to sip his tea. The brothers held their faces in 
their hands.

"The next morning," he continued, "before I had risen, a servant came 
running and informed me that a buffalo cow had given birth to a calf 
that had the characters "Van Dich"  imprinted on his back. Was I not to 
assume then that Chu Van Dich's soul had passed into the calf's body?"

After a long silence, the two brothers raised their heads.

"Chu Van Dich was our father," they said. "After his death, our mother 
left the village, taking us with her. In a distant province, Lord Buddha 
had compassion on us and we became well-to-do. we have come here to pay 
our father's debts. And then you will of course give us the buffalo."

"You owe me nothing," replied the landowner. "I will gladly give you all 
your father's notes for he has amply repaid me through the work of the 
buffalo. Ever since the time that he began working for me, we have had a 
large measure of good fortune. We took good care of him, which was as it 
should have been, and I am sorry to see him go."

The landowner then gave the brothers their father's notes and ordered 
the buffalo released to them. After thanking the man for his generosity, 
they returned to the village, leading the buffalo. There they burned the 
notes; at that moment the buffalo was seen to fall to the ground dead!

Chu Van Dich's soul thus returned to the Kingdom of the Dead, where it 
would live eternally in peace.